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Revelation 19

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(Revelation 19)

In this chapter, the judgment of the beast ridden by the harlot is presented, the presentation reaching its climax in the final destruction of both in Revelation 19:19-21, where the harlot is also mentioned again under the figure of the false prophet. This is the central one of three chapters, each of which is concluded with a description of the judgment day.

Revelation 18 ends with the desolated whore at the judgment.

Revelation 19 ends with the beast destroyed at the judgment.

Revelation 20 ends with the dragon (Satan) destroyed at the judgment.

This is the exact reverse order of their appearance in Revelation, beginning at Revelation 12:1. This book of Revelation is very neatly and skillfully organized, and the structure of it is a marvel of logical design and synchronization. The chronology of these three chapters is identical, each of them dealing with the entire Christian dispensation between the two Advents of Christ. The "forty-two months," the "one thousand two hundred and three score days," and the "one thousand years" are three different symbolical terms used in the successive chapters as the designation of the same chronological period, i.e., the entire dispensation, each of them reaching its terminus at the judgment.

This chapter, therefore, is not "the beginning of the millennial age." The only connection that it has with the millennium is that it prophesies of events throughout the whole current dispensation, which is the 1,000 years, the 42 months, or the 1,260 days, each of these expressions meaning the same thing. Thus, each of the three chapters (Revelation 18; Revelation 19; and Revelation 20) covers the same period of time ending at the judgment, as do also other sections of the prophecy.

Prior to the narration of the destruction of the kings (the beast in his final phase, the period of the ten horns), presented in Revelation 19:11-31, there are two proleptic scenes of praise, the first (Revelation 19:1-5) looking backward to the destruction of the harlot, and the second (Revelation 19:6-10) looking forward to the destruction of the beast. Many commentators, notably Beckwith and Bruce, treat the first five verses as actually a part of the preceding chapter; but it makes little difference, for both outbursts of praise in heaven are very similar to other parenthetical and anticipatory scenes scattered throughout the prophecy.

This chapter dealing with the sea-beast in the later phase of his existence, the period represented by the ten horns, is of very great significance, for it places the complete fulfillment of Revelation at least half a millennium later than this first phase which ended with the collapse of the pagan empire in 476 A.D. The narrow preterist view that all of Revelation was fulfilled in the time of the first generation receiving it is totally denied by this, as also by the fact that a period of time represented by a full thousand years is also represented as intervening prior to the final judgment in Revelation 20. The final judgment day is the key to understanding Revelation, for it appears no less than seven times within these 22 chapters. The greatest misunderstanding of Revelation apparent in the works of so many writers is their ill-advised efforts to get rid of the various depictions of the final judgment. Every conceivable device of doing this has been utilized; but none of them, nor all of them, can remove the stark dramatic language which simply cannot logically apply to anything else except the judgment day.

Verse 1

After these things I heard as it were a great voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, Hallelujah; Salvation, and glory, and power, belong to our God:

Plummer thought that, "A new phase of the vision begins here"; A. Plummer, The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 22, Revelation (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1950), p. 447. and perhaps this is correct, since the recapitulation of the whole time between the two Advents is again presented, this time with the focus upon the destruction of the sea-beast in his final manifestation of the ten horns.

Hallelujah; Salvation, and glory and power … "The only times that Hallelujah actually appears in Scripture are on the four occasions in this chapter." William Barclay, The Revelation of John (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1976), p. 169. Like "Abba," "Hosanna," and a few others, it is a transliterated word from the Hebrew. It is also found in some translations of the Old Testament, where "Praise the Lord" is also used instead of it.

Verse 2

for true and righteous are his judgments; for he hath judged the great harlot; her that corrupted the earth with her fornication, and he hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand.

True and righteous are his judgments … It is appropriate for Christians to be reminded that the terrible judgments upon nations, cities, and individuals who spurn his mercies are "righteous." The holy and righteous God cannot, nor will he, accommodate to human wickedness. "The moral law can no more be broken than the law of gravity; it can only be illustrated." T. S. Kepler as quoted by Barclay, Ibid. "There is nothing flabby or colorless about these anthems; the ring with stern joy at the judgment executed upon Babylon." Albertus Pieters, Studies in the Revelation of St. John (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1954), p. 262. It is plain that the first part of this praise passage still has in view the destruction of the harlot related in the previous chapter. See next verse.

For he hath judged the great harlot … The ultimate overthrow of all evil will take place at the final judgment, an event here viewed as in the past, the rejoicing throng being depicted in the vision as looking back upon it. This harmonizes with the understanding of the last paragraph of chapter 18 as a prophecy of the final judgment.

Verse 3

And a second time they say, Hallelujah. And her smoke goeth up for ever and ever.

The smoke for ever and ever … The final nature of the judgment depicted at the end of chapter 18 is indicated by this. "This refers to the final punishment of the wicked following the judgment." John T. Hines, A Commentary on the Book of Revelation (Nashville: Gospel Advocate Company, 1962), p. 265. "This Scripture also cries out against all forms of universalism which are so prevalent today." James D. Strauss, The Seer, the Saviour, and the Saved (Joplin, Missouri: College Press, 1972), p. 233.

Verse 4

And the four and twenty elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshipped God that sitteth on the throne, saying, Amen; Hallelujah.

The four and twenty elders and the four living creatures … These come from the early chapters (Revelation 4 and Revelation 5) of the prophecy. Hendriksen understood the 24 elders as symbolizing "the entire church, and the living creatures as representing the cherubim"; William Hendriksen, More than Conquerors (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1956), p. 214. however, there is little use of pursuing their identity, because the rejoicing is clearly for the benefit of the saints on earth and is intended to show how they will rejoice upon their entry into heaven.

"The violent hatred of Rome" shown in these passages is alleged by some to be "not Christian"; but Beckwith exploded such charges by pointing out that God’s hatred "is not of people, but of a corrupt anti-Christianity." Isbon T. Beckwith, The Apocalypse of John (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1919, p. 723. It is not Christian vengeance which is seen here, but divine retribution. The thing to keep in focus here is a vision of "God that sitteth on the throne."

Verse 5

And a voice came forth from the throne, saying, Give praise to our God, all ye his servants, ye that fear him, the small and the great.

Give praise to our God, all ye his servants … This is the message intended by the praise in heaven. The persecuted saints should praise God who still sits on the throne; and no enemy, either of good or of the redeemed, shall escape his judgment.

Small and great … is an idiom for "all" of God’s true servants.

The repeated Hallelujah’s are the keynote of all Revelation:

Though the enemies of good rage against his people like savage beasts, and Baby]on exults in her insolence, "God remains supreme, keeping watch above his own," and ready to call his foes to account when their rebellion has passed the point of no return. F. F. Bruce, A New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1969), p. 660.

Just as these first five verses look back to the judgment of the harlot, the next four look forward to the true Bride, the Lamb’s wife, to be glorified in subsequent chapters. It is impossible not to see that in these obvious and dramatic contrasts between the harlot and the true wife of Christ, the true nature of the harlot as "apostate religion" is revealed.

Verse 6

And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunders, saying, Hallelujah: for the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigneth.

This, together with Revelation 19:7, constitutes a proleptic or anticipatory announcement of the "Marriage of the Lamb," an event that does not take place until the Second Advent. George Eldon Ladd, A Commentary on the Revelation of John (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1972), p. 245.

The Lord our God, the Almighty reigneth … This is grossly misunderstood when it is thought to mean that God "reigneth" only after the harlot, the beast, and the dragon are destroyed. The word "reigneth" is the eternal present. Let any one in doubt go back to Revelation 4 and Revelation 5 and read them again. God has never left his throne.

The Almighty … This is a characteristic designation for God in this prophecy.

It occurs ten times in the New Testament; once it is in an Old Testament quotation (2 Corinthians 6:18); and the other nine times are in Revelation (Revelation 1:8; 4:8; 11:17; 15:3; 16:7,14; 19:6,15; 21:22). William Barclay, op. cit., p. 173.

The Almighty God is eternal, and there has never been the fraction of an instant when he was not in complete and universal control of the entire universe, nor has there ever been the slightest interruption of his eternal reign. Oh to be sure, rebels have flaunted his laws; but they never broke any of them! They merely illustrated them! "The Scriptures cannot be broken" (John 10:35). See full comment on this in my Commentary on John, pp. 265-267.

The first clause in this verse is "John’s usual way of showing a new division." Isbon T. Beckwith, op. cit., p. 725. "The first hymn (Revelation 19:1-5) looks backward; this one (Revelation 19:6-10) looks forward." Ibid.

Verse 7

Let us rejoice and be exceeding glad, and let us give the glory unto him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.


The marriage of the Lamb is come … "The marriage feast is the day of the Lord’s Second Advent." James Moffatt, Expositor’s Greek New Testament, Vol. V (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1967), p. 464. The figure of marriage to represent the relationship between the Lord and his people is often used in the New Testament, but in various analogies. In Matthew 22:1-4, the Christians are guests at the wedding. In Matthew 15:1ff, they are certain of the bridesmaids. In 2 Corinthians 11:1-3, they are chaste virgins betrothed unto the Lord. In Ephesians 5:22-32 and in Romans 7:4, the analogy is that Christians are now married to the Lord. "When passages like this (Revelation 19:7) are pressed as proof that the church is not now married to the Lord, these figures are ignored." John T. Hinds, op. cit., p. 266. Also, in this connection, it is exceedingly important to remember that the Jewish customs of marriage are those prominent in all of these usages. The betrothal, which often took place as much as a year before the actual marriage, was fully equivalent legally to the marriage itself; during this period of waiting, the bridegroom was absent preparing a place for the bride (as in John 14:1-13), and any infidelity upon her part was considered as adultery; then came the great day of the marriage supper when the bridegroom and the bride began to live together. These and other peculiarly Jewish customs are all prominent in the New Testament employment of this metaphor. "The marriage supper," here, comes after the long period of waiting is over, and the bride and the bridegroom are taking up life together. For further elaboration of this, see under the above references in this series of commentaries, also in my Commentary on Matthew, pp. 6-8.

And his wife hath made herself ready … This verse shocks the "faith only" people, who at once "correct this" by the comment that she made herself ready "not by doing anything of her own," and pointing out that "it was given to her, given by the pure grace of God, that she be clothed." R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. John’s Revelation (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Augsburg Publishing House, 1943), p. 542. We might add that, of course, God gave her the clothes, but she had to put them on! That is what is meant by making herself ready. The whole analogy is beautifully exhibited in Matthew 22:12, where the wedding guests (Christians) had all received proper wedding garments, but one of them neglected to dress himself, with disastrous results for him; and so it will be for all who neglect to do the good works of the Christian life, which are a moment later identified as the wedding garments. By putting these on, the bride "worked out her own salvation" (Philippians 2:12); in this way she made herself ready. All of the ingenuity of people who do not believe it will never be able to eliminate this plain teaching of the word of God. We also add that no one could possibly believe in the free grace of God any more than does this writer!

Verse 8

And it was given unto her that she should array herself in fine linen, bright and pure: for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.

For the linen is the righteous acts of the saints … This clearly means that the righteous acts done by Christians are indeed the fine linen in which the bride must be arrayed. But are not these "given to her"? Yes, but not in any sense of her not having to do them. God gives his saints all kinds of righteous deeds through his holy commandments telling them what to do, and through the motivation to do them provided in the selfless example of our Blessed Lord. "The double nature of the process is here set forth, tit was given to her;’ the power came from God; and yet she arrays herself; the action is still voluntary." A. Plummer, The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 22, Revelation (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1950), p. 448. "Righteous acts flow from a righteous character, which is entirely of the grace of God"; Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Revelation (Chicago: Moody Press, 1968), p. 111. but the righteous deeds do not do themselves! They are not done by the believer’s faith, nor by the Holy Spirit, but they are done by the believer. Morris voiced a common view thus, "The white robes are not provided by any righteous acts on the part of the wearers," Leon Morris, Tyndale Commentaries, New Testament, Vol. 20, The Revelation of St. John (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1969), p. 227. but this is true only in a certain limited sense. The metaphor of putting on the garments is also prominent here. The bride arrayed herself. "From one point of view, she made the dress herself; she worked out her own salvation." Michael Wilcock, I Saw Heaven Opened (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1975), p. 172. The impact of this verse is so strong against the popular heresy of Solifidianism, that some of the commentators have reached for the explanation of last resort and called it "a gloss"! "It has the sound of some commentator’s explanation." Isbon T. Beckwith, op. cit., p. 727. Of course, there is no evidence whatever of this verse being a gloss; and those who resort to such an allegation confess in so doing that it contradicts what they are teaching.

Verse 9

And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they that are bidden to the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true words of God.

Blessed are they that are bidden … All people are bidden in the sense of being invited by the gospel of Christ to accept the salvation of God; but, in the New Testament, the "called" means those who "have accepted and obeyed the call." "Bidden" means those who accepted God’s invitation through their believing and obeying the gospel.

These are the true words of God … This may be understood as a solemn assurance that "all of the Scriptures" are the true words of God. There is no need to limit this to the invitation to the marriage supper; but that in itself encompasses the entire scope of God’s message to people in the Holy Scriptures.

Verse 10

And l fell down before his feet to worship him. And he saith unto me, See thou do it not: I am a fellow-servant with thee and with thy brethren that hold the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.

This incident recorded here is of vast importance and significance. The background of its appearance in the vision, or perhaps the reason for God’s giving this, may have been the tendency to worship angels which is said to have prevailed in some quarters in the primitive church. Moffatt, for example, quoted Clement of Alexandria as saying that, "angel worship had for some time fascinated the Asiatic churches here and there." James Moffatt, op. cit., p. 465. The impact of what is taught by this, however, far exceeds the bearing it has in forbidding angel worship.

And I fell down before his feet to worship him … In this instance, John actually was so carried away by the marvelous visions that he had seen that he impetuously fell down to worship the glorious angel who had aided in the revelations. This, at once, was revealed as sinful.

And he saith unto me, See thou do it not … This clearly indicated the sinfulness of what John did in falling down before him.

"I am a fellow-servant with thee and with thy brethren that hold the testimony of Jesus …" This is exceedingly interesting, for it gives angelic testimony to the high rank of the apostle John. "They that hold the testimony of Jesus," as used here, is a reference to the Twelve Apostles. They alone, in the ultimate sense, held the testimony of Jesus; and that it is in that higher sense that the words were used here by the angel appears in the addition of the clause: "For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." This forbids, therefore, understanding the brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus as merely the Christians of all ages who also, in a sense, are bearers of the glad tidings. The angel spoke of those Spirit-endowed people who were the chosen witnesses to bear the testimony through their writings in the New Testament to all generations. They were prophets; Christians are not prophets.

Even a glorious angel is merely one of God’s servants, and therefore not to be worshipped by people. Worship is reserved for God alone. The acceptance of the worship by people on the part of Christ does not mean that other people may accept the worship of their fellows, but it identifies Christ as God come in the flesh.

I am thy fellow-servant … Regarding the "service" which angels give to the redeemed, see in my Commentary on Hebrews, p. 31.

Worship God … This means that only God is to be worshipped, either by an act of obeisance, prostration, or bowing down before the presence, or by any subjective adoration, the latter being not "worship" in the New Testament sense, but the emotional accompaniment of it. See thorough discussion of what worship actually is in my Commentary on Acts 2:8-13. If even one of the glorious angels of heaven may not be honored by a Christian’s bowing before his presence, how much less may any religious prelate allow people to kiss his ring, or the hem of his garment, or prostrate themselves on their bellies as when the entire college of Cardinals so prostrate themselves before the Pope? Such reverence given to a mere human being is a sin.

The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy … We regret that the vast majority have failed utterly to understand this. "There is no way absolutely to determine whether John is speaking of the witness given by Christ himself, or whether the witness is about Christ." James D. Strauss, op. cit., p. 237. Ladd thought that, "It is the witness borne by the church to Jesus." George Eldon Ladd, op. cit., p. 251. Beasley-Murray interpreted it to mean the "testimony which Jesus gives." G. R. Beasley-Murray, The Book of Revelation (Greenwood, South Carolina: The Attic Press, 1974), p. 276. All such explanations fall short. Bruce was nearer the truth when he wrote: "Here New Testament prophecy is meant, as in the similar statement regarding Old Testament prophecy in 1 Peter 1:10f. F. F. Bruce, op. cit., p. 660. This harmonizes completely with our view of it given in the fourth paragraph under Revelation 19:10. We see this clause as a qualifier of those whom the angel meant were his fellow-servants. He spoke of the Twelve Apostles, and this verse indicates that meaning, for the apostles alone were truly "prophets" of the New Testament.

Barclay’s interesting comment on this is included here, not because it touches this vital meaning of the passage, but be cause it gives attention to the "double meaning" phenomenon often found in the New Testament.

This is the kind of double meaning of which the Greek language is capable; and it may well be that John intended the double meaning. The true prophet is the man who receives from Christ the message he brings to men, and whose words and works are at one and the same time an act of witness to Christ. William Barclay, op. cit., p. 177.

We cannot accept the view that a true Christian, however effective his "witness," is in any sense a possessor of the "spirit of prophecy." The clause is a designator of the Twelve. We whole-heartedly agree with another of Barclay’s comments on this verse, thus, "God alone must be worshipped. Any other intermediary than Jesus Christ between God and men must be utterly opposed." Ibid., p. 176. Angels are above all people, who are made a "little lower" than the angels; and, if it is sinful to worship an angel, how far greater is the sin of worshipping people, or of invoking their names in prayer, or of bowing down in the presence of images consecrated to them?

Zerr, who is usually quite dependable, cannot be correct in his notion that, "There are some conditions when even a man may receive some form of worship." E. M. Zerr, Bible Commentary, Vol. 6 (Marion, Indiana: Cogdill Foundation, 1954), p. 339. One commentator even suggested that John got mixed up and forgot about relating this incident when he included it a second time in Revelation 22:8,9; and even J. W. Roberts wrote: "This scene is duplicated in Revelation 22:6ff." J. W. Roberts, The Revelation of John (Austin, Texas: R. B. Sweet Company, 1974), p. 161. No! This is not duplicated there, where a most important and significant difference will be pointed out and discussed.

Verse 11

And I saw the heaven opened; and behold, a white horse, and he that sat thereon called Faithful and True; and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.

A white horse, and he that sat thereon called Faithful and True … This seems to be one of the few places in Revelation where all the opinions meld into one. This is a description of the Lord Jesus Christ. We also identify him with the rider of the white horse in the first seal (Revelation 6:2). It is objected that those seals are judgments; but what is the scene here if it is not a judgment, not merely a judgment, but the final and last judgment? The judgment in the seals (Revelation 6:2) was due to the preaching of the truth, an odor of life to some, death to others; and this judgment is the final and total execution of the judgment determined by the preaching of the gospel, which always results in the salvation of some and the rejection of others, and culminates in the wicked being overthrown as in this judgment.

The dark scenes of the balance of this chapter are objected to by many who find what they call their "Christian sensibilities" offended. They say this contradicts the conception of a gracious and merciful Christ; but such views are simply incorrect. "Everywhere in the New Testament, the element of victory through judgment is an inescapable aspect of Christ’s total work." George Eldon Ladd, op. cit., p. 151.

The warfare now to be described must be understood as that which is taking place between the hosts of Christ and Satan throughout the period of the world’s existence. A. Plummer, op. cit., p. 449.

We reject the type of slander of this part of Revelation which declares that, "There is little or nothing that is specifically Christian in the whole section." James Moffatt, op. cit., p. 466. People with such views have merely overlooked the New Testament doctrine of judgment. Even Roberts overlooked the judgment here, thinking that John "expected a thousand year reign of the saints before the end of the world and the judgment." J. W. Roberts, op. cit., p. 158. He and so many others overlooked the recapitulatory nature of these chapters (Revelation 18; Revelation 19, and Revelation 20). It is true, of course, that the 1,000 years’ reign comes before the judgment, as the recapitulation in the next chapter shows. But the judgment here in this chapter is exactly the same as the judgment there. "This chapter does not give us a picture of the millennial age" James William Russell, op. cit., p. 650. in Any sense of its being any different from the rest of the Christian dispensation. The chapter is a view of the whole "millennial age," the "forty two months," the "one thousand two hundred and sixty days," etc., all of which are synonyms, symbolical representations of the total time between the two Advents of Christ, covering exactly the same time-period as that already covered in this prophecy, again, and again, and again.

Keep in mind that Revelation 18 gave the overthrow of the harlot; this chapter gives the overthrow of the beast (in his phase of the ten kings, the final phase, that of the eighth head); and the next chapter (Revelation 20) gives the overthrow of Satan (the dragon). These three: the dragon (Satan), the sea-beast (world persecuting governments), and the harlot (the land-beast, also the false prophet), are the three great enemies of Christianity depicted in Revelation. Their destruction in these three chapters occurs in exactly the reverse order of their appearance in the prophecy (beginning at Revelation 12:1); and despite their overthrow being related in separate chapters and separate recapitulations, "All three go down together:" R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 547. They are all three destroyed simultaneously in the final judgment, and shall continue "alive" and active until the very last day of time.

The circumstance that each is revealed in a separate vision should not lead us to think that there is an interval of centuries, either between their appearances (or their overthrow). In reality, all perish together by the Parousia of the Lamb. R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 547, 548.

Verse 12

And his eyes are a flame of fire, and upon his head are many diadems; and he hath a name written which no one knoweth but he himself.

And his eyes are a flame of fire … The glorious appearance of Christ here recalls the first vision of him with which the prophecy opened (Revelation 1). The flaming eyes suggest purity, truth, and omniscience.

Many diadems … The vast and eternal authority of Christ as set forth in Matthew 28:18-20 is symbolized by these.

Name … which no man knoweth but he himself … There are two excellent interpretations of this, either one of which, or both of which, may be correct. "The unknown name of Christ comports with the fact that his nature, his relationship to the Father, and even his relationship to humanity, transcend all human understanding." G. R. Beasley-Murray, op. cit., p. 280. Barclay thought it might be, "The sacred tetragrammaton, the sacred YHWH, the unpronounceable, unknown name of God." William Barclay, op. cit., p. 180. The status of Christ as God in the New Testament makes this altogether reasonable and logical. The sacred Hebrew word for God is still not known to any man; and it would be appropriate enough applied to Christ.

Verse 13

And he is arrayed in a garment sprinkled with blood: and his name is called the Word of God.

Garment sprinkled with blood … The imagery of this is thought to reflect the figure of the winepress in Isaiah 63, but there the blood was the blood of the Lord’s enemies. As Caird pointed out, "The Rider’s garment is already soaked in blood before the battle begins." G. B. Caird, The Revelation of St. John the Divine (New York: Harper and Row, 1966), p. 242. Some point out that Christ has already won many victories before the one pointed out here; but we seem to be compelled to seek the meaning symbolized by the bloodstains in that eternal victory of the Cross, where the enabling victory of all that came afterwards was achieved. "His garment is dipped in blood because Christ shed his blood for mankind." E. M. Zerr, op. cit., p. 340.

And his name is called the Word of God … "This is a title of Christ used only by the apostle John (John 1:1,14, 1 John 1:1, 5:7)." Charles Caldwell Ryrie, op. cit., p. 112. The apostle is thus linked with all three writings.

Verse 14

And the armies which are in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and pure.

And the armies which are in heaven followed him … Any literalism here, as in most of the prophecy, is impossible. We agree with Pieters that this does not symbolize Christians. "It is an idea alien to the Scriptures to speak of Christians going forth again to wage war on evil, after attaining a heavenly rest." Albertus Pieters, op. cit., p. 204. The Lord never depicted his sheep as organized in a campaign of destruction directed against the wolves! "The armies which are in heaven must be angelic armies." Ibid. This also corresponds to the oft-repeated mention of a host of holy angels participating in the final judgment (Matthew 13:41,49, 2 Thessalonians 1:7). The undeniable identification of the last part of this chapter with the final judgment is inherent in the makeup of this vast army. Caird thought these were Christians, G. B. Caird, op. cit., p. 265. and Rist identified them as "the martyrs"; Martin Rist, The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. XII (New York-Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1950), p. 514. but such views impose great difficulty in fitting them logically into the entire vision.

Verse 15

And out of his mouth proceeded a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness of the wrath of God, the Almighty.

And out of his mouth proceeded a sharp sword … Again, all voices agree as one in seeing this as a symbol of the word of God (Hebrews 4:12,13; Ephesians 6:17f).

With it he should smite the nations … rule them with a rod of iron … These are not references to the merciful and benign reign of Christ through his saints on earth in the present dispensation, but to the final wrath and judgment of God upon the ungodly.

He treadeth the winepress of the fierceness of the wrath of God … This tells what Christ is depicted as doing in this scene. It is a picture of final judgment. "All three of the figures in this verse are representations of the word of Christ, by which he executes with indisputable authority the judgment of God." G. R. Beasley-Murray, op. cit., p. 281. No "battle" of any kind takes place here. The so-called Battle of Armageddon, as usually conceived, is nothing but man’s imagination. Christ needs no armies, whether of angels, or anyone else. His word which hurled the suns in space will execute his will when the time comes. To be sure, the language here suggests Armageddon, the great spiritual conflict going on throughout history, the results of which will be announced and executed on the last day. Note that there is no fighting or conflict of any kind in view here. At the moment of this vision, the conflict is already over; only the judgment remains to be executed; the issues which were long ago determined are here to be revealed and executed in the final judgment of all people.

Verse 16

And he hath on his garment and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.

KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS … This makes it mandatory to view the similar passage in 1 Timothy 6:15 as also being a plain reference to the Lord Jesus Christ. See comment on that reference in this series.

This superlative title does not refer to what Christ will become after this so-called "battle." "He will conquer the monster and the kings because he is already King of kings and Lord of lords." Ibid. This section teaches:

That Christ is reigning; he is reigning through the power of his word; he is reigning in every heart that will yield to the gospel. When he comes in the clouds of his glory (with his angels, as here), the final stroke will be delivered. Frank L. Cox, Revelation in 26 Lessons (Nashville: The Gospel Advocate Company, 1956), p. 113.

See the dissertation on "The King of Kings and Lord of Lords" in my Commentary on 1 Timothy, pp. 229-234.

Verse 17

And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in mid heaven, Come and be gathered together unto the great supper of God;

An angel standing in the sun … The function of angels as aids in the final judgment is an oft-recurring New Testament phenomenon. See under Revelation 19:14.

Come and be gathered together for the great supper of God … This is the counterpart of the Lord’s Supper, or the marriage supper of the Lamb, as it applies to the wicked. Very well, if people who are bidden to the marriage supper will not come, there is another supper prepared for them; and they shall surely be present for it!

But why no battle? What happened to Armageddon? The answer provided by Eller for this is:

Jesus in his death and resurrection did all that needed to be done, won the only victory that needs to be won, in order to take care of Evil once and for all. Vernard Eller, The Most Revealing Book of the Bible (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974), p. 178.

Of course, "There is no cavalry kept in heaven, no literal supper of human flesh eaten by the birds." G. R. Beasley-Murray, op. cit., p. 278. These things must be understood symbolically. Eller pointed out one thing that may be intended. In the extensive attack upon God and the supernatural by the massive hordes of evil men on earth, "It is not the supernatural powers that get eaten, but people." Vernard Eller, op. cit., p. 178.

Verse 18

that ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses and of them that sit thereon, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, and small and great.

Inherent in this is the fact that if people choose to live like animals, denying any image of God in themselves, or even that God exists, the final result will bring them to exactly the same end as that of a dead horse. It is the injection of that phrase "and the flesh of horses" which strongly emphasizes this point here. If man was born of evolution, being only material, then he has no more cosmic value than a worm or a dog.

We shall not dwell on the revulsion that such an awful scene as this brings to mind. The utter horror of such a holocaust staggers the imagination. One thing should be pointed out: this is exactly the same scene, from a different viewpoint, that was described in Revelation 6:16,17; the same characters are here: kings, captains, mighty men, the bond and the free, the great and the small. It is another presentation (in vision) of the final judgment, described by the apostle John over and over, each picture closing a different prophecy, and each vision covering the same ground between the two Advents. "History attains its end in a complete division of the human race into two groups.." G. R. Beasley-Murray, op. cit., p. 282. These are the Church which is loyal to her true head, and the world which casts its lot in with evil. "Here we are dealing with the last judgment, nothing else." R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 557.

Verse 19

And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat upon the horse, and against his army.

I saw the beast … kings … armies … These are the same. This is the scarlet sea-beast of the seven heads and ten horns (Revelation 13:1). Note the mention of "the kings"; these are the "ten kings" (Revelation 17:11-17) who hate and burn the harlot (the seventh head of the beast), becoming themselves the eighth head; but this phase of the scarlet beast is relatively short, "one hour" symbolizing an indefinite but short time. There is no way to know whether such a symbol means years, decades, or centuries. All time with reference to eternity is only a day. The total and final end of the scarlet sea-beast is depicted here.

How strange, how tragic is this situation in which the kings of earth unite in one terrible effort to destroy the anointed of God. How contrary this revelation is to the dreams of men and the foolish statements of their false prophets, that human society is ever progressing. Wilbur M. Smith. Wycliffe Bible Commentary, New Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1971). p. 1092.

It appears certain that the prophecy here is of the near endtime, in which period it is prophesied here that wickedness will become very aggressive against righteousness. We find it impossible to disagree with the comment that:

Never before has there been such a widespread revolt against all standards of decency and honesty. Never before have religious leaders advocated not only a "new theology" but a "new morality" which flouts God’s laws. The stage is being rapidly set for the end of the age. Ralph Earle. Beacon Bible Commentary, Vol. 10 (Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 1967), p. 608.

It is this final, terminal opposition of evil to God’s will which is here styled a "battle." It will not be a "battle" in any ordinary understanding of the word; but the final conflict will be so severe that it fully deserves the title. This is not the struggle that takes place after Christ comes, but the one that is going on now. "The warfare takes place while Christians are upon earth." A. Plummer, op. cit., p. 450.

Verse 20

And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought the signs in his sight, wherewith he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast and them that worshipped his image: they two were cast alive into the lake of fire that burneth with brimstone:

And the beast was taken … and the false prophet … The false prophet (the harlot, the land-beast; all three terms refer to the same thing) was destroyed in the judgment scene of chapter 18, and the mention of the same thing being done here, under a different figure, is merely to show that this judgment is exactly the same as that.

They two were cast alive into the lake of fire … There is no way to understand a statement like this as being anything else except a reference to the final judgment of the wicked as foretold by Christ (Matthew 25:41). Note that the destruction of the harlot, here called the false prophet, shall be simultaneous with the destruction of the scarlet sea-beast of Revelation 13:1. This means that apostate Christianity will not perish before the final judgment. Both the harlot and the sea-beast (in the form of his eighth head) will be alive and doing a flourishing business when the end comes. Earle likewise stressed the truth that the two beasts of chapter 13 are the same as the beast and the false prophet here. Ralph Earle, op. cit., p. 608. We have also identified the harlot with the second beast (land-beast). Note that John says nothing here of any "battle." "He may mean that there was no battle." Leon Morris, op. cit., p. 232. Of course, he could hardly mean anything else. And the wrath of the Gentile unsmote by the sword Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord!

Verse 21

and the rest were killed by the sword of him that sat upon the horse, even the sword which came forth out of his mouth: and all the birds were filled with their flesh.

And the rest were killed with the sword of him … Of course, that was no literal sword, but a symbol of the word of the Lord. The word alone is all-sufficient for achieving the total purpose of the Lord Jesus Christ. But should not these armies that followed the beast, the kings and the false prophet have also been cast into the lake of fire? "You are right; they were; Revelation 20:15 says so." R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 563.

This particular recapitulation of the warfare between Satan and Christ (Revelation 19:11-21) "has given special attention to the overthrow of the powers of evil." A. Plummer, op. cit., p. 450. "This covers the same ground as the vision of the seals," Ibid. and other parallel visions of this prophecy. The whole pattern will again be repeated in Revelation 20 with another recapitulation of the warfare going on in this dispensation, with the focus upon the overthrow of Satan himself, and ending in exactly the same place all of the recapitulations have ended; namely, at the final judgment of the last day. The chronology of all these parallel visions lies principally between the two Advents of Jesus Christ.

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Revelation 19". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/revelation-19.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
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